|Ambedkar: An Economist Extraordinaire; Narendra Jadhav; Konark Publishers; Pp 278; Rs 595|
Ambedkar had a clear vision about the economic policy of independent Bharat. The book explains his rich understanding of economics.
“The Indian society has done a great injustice to itself by ignoring the economic thoughts of Ambedkar. After all, his economic thoughts were not parochial. What Ambedkar always has in mind was in the best interest of the nation as a whole. To brand him only as the leader of the downtrodden in India is an insult to this great patriot. What is equally disheartening is depriving the Indian society of the benefit of his economic thoughts, an act that is self-defeating for India as a nation. It is, therefore, imperative to bring out the contributions of Ambedkar, both in the field of economics in general and in addressing India’s economic problems.” observes the author Narendra Jadhav at the outset of the book.
The above quoted observation aptly sums up the objective and spirit behind the creation of this book. The post-independence academic narrative in Bharat was articulated with a heavy mind, full of prejudicial biases and value-loaded baggage. Ambedkar was presented and understood exclusively as a scholar-leader of the subaltern segment of the society. As a leader of the depressed classes, chiefly comprising of the people belonging to, what we now called Scheduled Castes. The first injustice to the great soul is done when we regard him as a leader of the depressed classes. This skewed perspective of Ambedkar reflects the parochial mindset of the intellectual class who somehow did not want to project someone else as a national leader apart from Jawaharlal Nehru.
Sadly, the Marxist intellectuals never bothered to venture beyond Ambedkar’s credentials, more than just the chairperson of the drafting committee of the Constitution of Bharat. Babasaheb’s knowledge of law is just a small component of this ‘intellectual colossus’, as the author has rightly pointed out in his book. The chronological trajectory of the book exemplifies his nuanced understanding of economics as an academic discipline. The Problem of Indian Rupee, his dissertation still remains an authoritative treatise for students and researchers in the field of currency economics.
‘Fiscal Federalism’ as a concept in the constitutional scheme of things was initially envisioned by Babasaheb. The division of revenue between the centre and the provinces was categorically dealt with in his comprehensive work on financial autonomy of the provinces. The devolution of finances from the web of centralised taxation framework was decoded by none other than Babasaheb. Professor Dr Edwin Robert Anderson Seligman, editor in chief of Encyclopedia of Social Sciences and one of the founder members of American Economic Association, commented that, “..the value of Mr Ambedkar’s contribution to this discussion lies in the objective recitation of the facts and the impartial analysis of the interesting development that has taken place in his native country. The lessons are applicable to the other countries as well; nowhere, to my knowledge, has such a detailed study of underlying principles been made”.
The mainstream academic narrative based on the life, times and scholarly achievements of Babasaheb is heavily prejudiced towards his forte in the discipline of Law, Philosophy and Religion. The Ambedkar consciousness in our academic and literary circles was myopic and somehow was not doing justice to his multi-dimensional personality.
The book has explained Babasaheb’s rich understanding of economics in a manner accessible to the lay person. The complexities of economic terminologies rarely act as an impediment as it has been explained well in the context. For the uninitiated, this book will certainly prove to be beneficial in understanding an unexplored dimension of the leader who has been until now seen through a single prism. Ambedkar had a clear vision about the economic policy of independent Bharat and it is notable that the problems of the Bharateeya rupee and fiscal federalism which he wrote about at the time of independence, remains unaddressed till date. Also, a word of caution is pertinent to mention here that, the book should not be seen from a ‘specialist’ perspective but a ‘generalist’ perspective to understand the leader who single-handedly lifted millions out of deprivation to dignity.
Guru Prakash (The reviewer is pursuing PhD in Law on Article 370 of the Constitution of India)